TIMES SQUARE — As Angelika Filippone-Marino huddled with her mother and grandmother in matching hats on Seventh Avenue, the 16-year-old found solace in Times Square's shimmering lights — the first sign that their lives were getting back to normal after Hurricane Sandy ripped them from their home.
"After everything that happened, I'm thankful I have my family and my life," said the Gerritsen Beach native, who said she and her family were evacuated by boat when the hurricane flooded their house. "This is a pick-me-up. It's a return to normalcy."
The Marinos, who have visited Times Square every year since 2006, have stayed in shelters, schoolhouses, churches and hotels since the hurricane, Angelika's mother, Desiree Marino, said.
"I started our coming here," said Desiree, a retired cop. "And even after the storm, we don't want to let our spirits get down."
Marino's mother, Maryann, 76, also joined in the celebration Monday night, coming to Times Square in her wheelchair.
"All my old friends can't believe I make it here," she boasted.
But even though the ritual provided familiarity, the Marinos said their journey to Times Square had an unexpected twist for the 2013 celebration — they walked just a few blocks to see the ball drop.
"We're staying at the Park Hotel," Desiree said of the hotel on Seventh Avenue and West 55th Street.
"Before this we stayed in a church, then at FDR High School on cots, then in East New York and then in The Bronx," she added.
And regardless of where they call home, Marino said Times Square "is one place where we feel like we can be a family every year."